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Schools jobs back on HVAC agenda

Contractors are expecting an expanded Partnerships for Schools to procure schools projects through a number of regional frameworks as the James Review findings are adopted.

The government-commissioned taskforce led by DSG International group operations director Sebastian James last week published its final report on a new schools capital system.

It called for local authorities to be given more say on which schools projects were prioritised in their areas.

But it also said a central body should be given the task of procuring most schools work and - critically - making sure it is delivered to time, quality and budget.

Several sources told H&V News they expected PfS to take on the central role, albeit in an amended form.

It is thought the body may become part of the Department for Education, and is likely to expand its team of project managers to cope with the increased responsibility for the success of developments.

One source said: “The people with the skill set needed to perform this job are at PfS. They know they will be needed under the new system.”

Another added: “PfS certainly should carry on with its role, but it will need to be resourced effectively for the new demands on it.”

Much of the thinking outlined in the James Review is being tested on a pilot project in Doncaster.

After winning a quickfire procurement contest through the academies framework, Wates is rebuilding Campsmount Technology College to a strict timeframe and budget.

Wates head of education Steve Beechey said: “PfS provided strong project management on Campsmount. I would expect it to expand its team of PMs if it is given the central role.”

He added that procurement for the pilot project was kept very quick by using a framework to remove the need for pre-qualification, and getting down to two bidders very quickly.

Sources said they expected the two academies frameworks to be replaced with at least four regional agreements once their £4 billion limit had been reached.

This would allow the government to balance its desire for cost-effective procurement with its policy of providing accessibility to state work for small firms.

UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “Contractors will be pretty pleased with the report.

“If our members were asked to draw up a shopping list of how to make the savings required, this report is pretty much what it would look like.”

Education secretary Michael Gove is expected to respond to the report within the next few weeks.